Monday 18 December 2017

Making breastfeeding work

Breastfeeding can be the easiest thing in the world to do - if you get the right supports. Two breastfeeding specialists give their top tips to making it a success

THE culture of breastfeeding in Ireland started to disappear sometime in the late 1950s and 1960s for a number of reasons, and along with it went some of the family supports that breastfeeding mothers enjoyed in the past. Fast forward five decades, and breastfeeding is often regarded as difficult to do, socially awkward and just not very cool. But breastfeeding has lots of benefits: it can improve interconnectedness between mother and baby, it can help mothers lose weight more quickly, it can save the hassle of washing bottles in those first few days or weeks.

Claire Boyle, midwife and breastfeeding consultant, insists that breastfeeding can be the easiest thing in the world, provided you get the right support. That support, she adds, must be received even before the baby is born.

"The first thing you should do is take a 'preparing for breastfeeding' class. Research has shown that antenatal breastfeeding education works, it results in mothers feeling confident and having a sense of self-efficacy in breastfeeding. If you know how to breastfeed before you start, it's less stressful. And it takes four to six weeks to learn how to breastfeed."

Sue Jameson of parent support group Cuidiu says making contact with a local community support group can be priceless.

"Meeting other mothers and hearing their experiences, and being in a supportive environment, can make a huge difference."

Telling those around you that you are planning on breastfeeding is an important step, says Boyle. "Tell them why it's important to you and how they can help you."


When it comes to labour, having as uncomplicated a birth as possible can improve your breastfeeding success rate.

"But that doesn't mean that women who have difficult births can't breastfeed; it just makes it more challenging," says Boyle. She recommends having immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby until the first feed if possible.

Breastfeeding is supposed to be comfortable. "It is not normal for nipples to be damaged or for them to hurt. If there is pain there is something wrong," says Boyle.

Jameson urges mothers to seek help the very second something doesn't appear to be the way it should be.

"It doesn't have to be sore, it just doesn't have to be what they expected. Often it's not just about pain, they may not have expected baby to feed so much." Breastfed babies feed at least eight to 10 times in 24 hours.

Relaxing is vital as it helps you to produce optimum milk levels. Jameson says accept all offers of help.

Contact your local Cuidiú group through For antental breastfeeding classes go to

Irish Independent

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